Dealing with mud in fields: an introduction to field tile

Continuing with the theme of dealing with mud, I thought I’d share some resources on installing and maintaining field tile. Field tile is one of the main ways to deal with fields that are persistently muddy. Field tile instillation and maintenance can be a big job. I’ve helped dig holes and unclog tile multiple times and for me it was one of the more annoying farm jobs I’ve done. The older terracotta tiles which were common until the 1980’s can crack and collapse over time and any type of tile can get clogged with tree roots and miscellaneous debris. Once we even saw a full grown fish swimming through the tile sideways! Despite the drawbacks, if a field is waterlogged year after year, investing in tile can make a huge difference in being able to reliably get good yields, and often pay for themselves in increased profits within five years. Reducing mud also can improve safety since it makes it prevents equipment from getting stuck or damaged and prevents mud from building up on surfaces. I’ve put together a collection of articles that cover different aspects of installing and maintaining field tile.

Starting with the basics, here is an article that gives a good introduction to what field tile is and how it works:

https://fairfieldswcd.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/What-is-tile-1.pdf

Generally it is best to have tile installed by a professional. Getting a field tile system that works is much more complicated than digging a hole and sticking some tubing in the ground. A lot of factors must be considered including the soil type and density, the volume of water than needs to be drained, the placement of the outflow drains, the grading of the tile line, and the spacing and layout of the tile to name a few. Depending on what’s in your area, you may also have to consider conservation and get the instillation approved by the county, so check what your local regulations are early on if you’re thinking about installing tile. This link to a presentation by the Wisconsin extension shows an overview of some of the technical considerations involved in designing a tile system. Some of the things they cover in this presentation were covered in the fluid mechanics classes I took as an undergrad for my mechanical engineering degree so it’s pretty technical stuff.

https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/drainage/files/2015/09/Basic_Eng_-Princ-2_2017.pdf

Repairing field tile can reasonably be a DIY project depending on where the issue is and the characteristics of the individual field. Again, in some areas even repairs need to be approved by the county so make sure to check local regulations before you dig. The Indiana extension has a guide on how to fix several common field tile problems.

https://www.in.gov/dnr/water/files/Sec5-2.pdf


Don’t Mud it In-Advice on dealing with mud from Successful Farmer

Given that a lot of us are struggling to get corn in I thought I’d share this article from Successful Farmer on why waiting for things to dry out, even with as late as it is, is better than trying to mud in your seed. The article mainly focuses on yields and financial reasons for delaying, but there are safety reasons for waiting too. On the financial side, corn can still reach 100% of its yield if it’s planted in late May, and it’s possible to switch to shorter season seeds and get good yields planting even in early June. Planting when the ground is too wet can harm yields and we’re not at the point yet where time loss would affect yield worse than putting it in the ground when it’s too wet. On the safety side of things, mud can cause stuck equipment and make surfaces slick, which can in turn lead to injury. I know everything is wet and everyone is running late, and that can be incredibly frustrating, but the benefits of waiting until the field is dry enough outweigh the risks in terms of yield and in terms of safety.

https://www.agriculture.com/crops/corn/production/Dont-mud-it-in_137-ar3970

Image result for trying to plant a muddy field

Mud hazards and horses

Continuing with my theme on dealing with mud and preventing mud-related injuries, here is an article with some strategies for dealing with mud on trails and in horse facilities. In addition to creating hazards for people, mud is a health hazard for horses. It can cause foot health issues, increase the risk of falls, and is generally unpleasant for them. Many of the strategies listed in the article such as installing gutters and berms and putting buildings and outdoor arenas on the highest ground possible are good advice for any animal facility. Pay special attention to high traffic areas since they tend to accumulate mud more easily and because the exposure happens more often. Click on the link below to see an article from Equus Magazine on preventing mud in stables and arenas.

https://equusmagazine.com/management/keeping-ground-dry-8147

Another important area to consider mud when you have horses is on trails. Mud makes it much easier for horses to loose their footing, and mud can hide other hazards for your horses’ feet like rocks or other objects. Horses can even become stuck if the mud is deep enough. Anything that creates a hazard for the horse also creates a hazard for the rider. I found a second article from Equus gives some advice on dealing with mud on trails. Also if you have students or boarders that are less experienced, make sure that they know how to deal with mud before they go out. Riders with less experience are more prone to getting their horses or themselves in trouble even in ideal conditions, and according to the regional rural injury study, riding is the top cause of ag injuries for girls under the age of 18.

https://equusmagazine.com/riding/coping-with-mud-on-the-trail-8441

Video: Dealing with mud in feedlots

I’m out working on the farm for the summer and the big struggle the past few days has been dealing with the heavy rain and mud. Mud is a pain to deal with but it actually can have a big impact on safety too. When I look through the database, I see a lot of reports that have muddy conditions as a major cause of injury. There seem to be three main ways in which mud leads to injuries. The first scenario is where muddy conditions forces farmers into unusual situations where an injury is more likely to occur. For example, a tractor gets stuck in the mud, and in the process of getting it unstuck, someone gets their fingers pinched in a chain. The second scenario is doing an everyday task becomes more dangerous due to muddy conditions. For example, moving cattle in the mud causes someone to slip and fall and hurt their knee. The third scenario is where mud builds up on a surface and either hides a hazard or gunks up the grips on a surface. For example, slipping on tractor steps that have gotten muddy or stepping on a nail buried in the mud. I’m going to try to put together a couple more articles this week focusing on different ways of dealing with mud in different parts of the farm.

The video I’m sharing today is from a series called Doc Talk, which features a vet associated with the Kansas extension. The video talks about mud management from the standpoint of optimizing profit and cattle health in beef operations, but keeping mud levels under control can prevent injuries too.